Jay Aelick

2nd Declension Nouns, Lesson 2: Θάνατoς

           In the second declension, oυ means
male genitive singular, as in “Θανάτoυ,” as in,
“of Thanatos,” not to be confused with oν, 
the ancient Athenians’ accusative singular ending 
for neutered, sexless words. It all seems fairly sensible 
until you realize the sexless is itself a sex,  
and language’s bootleg mask of Halloween rationality 
begins to slip,
           Thanatos’s pale grin revealed 
to be nothing more than sweatshop rubber, sour 
smelling, with notes of stale factory  
and sweat. His scythe blade arcs, a jaw  
of plastic easily snapped off  
as a suffix, an “oυ!” of genitive pain. 
Its handle is hollow as omicron, echoing oς     oς
oς as it taps down the jack-o’-lanternlit street,
an asphalt Cocytus, nonsense wailing congealed, 
           Moldering pumpkin grins singe  
the fabric of his name, candleflame tongues sputtering 
Θά         να         τoς; σo Θaτ        αν; guttering
senseless syllables, gutting the word of sense,  
invoking a time before the first Greek 
took up the loom and spun language a costume  
of system and sanity, weaving the ultimate trick, 
that thrift-shop, All-Hallows deception. That is, 
deceptioν, accusative singular.

Jay Aelick is a birdwatcher, disc golfer, tarot reader, and sometimes even poet. Their work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Ligeia Magazine, the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, sinking city, Okay Donkey, Common Ground Review, and elsewhere. They are 1/2 of the English Club Podcast, where they critique infamous books as if they had been submitted to a fiction workshop.